As individuals get better access to the technology that enables their participation in the information age, so privacy has to be considered and regulation applied to raise standards to those that are acceptable across that society. It was interesting, therefore, to note the cultural recoil that occurred in response to the NSA’s recently discovered, and rather widespread, caller record collection (not to mention other 'PRISM' related data!) - it’s clear that this has crossed a boundary of acceptability.
This isn’t however, just a US problem. A news story recently broke in India highlighting that local law enforcement agencies had, over the past six months, compelled mobile phone companies to hand over call detail records for almost 100,000 subscribers. The requisitions originated from different sources and levels within the police force and their targets included many senior police officers and bureaucrats.
Unlike the NSA scrutiny, which although potentially unreasonable, at least appears legal, the vast majority of these data requests did not have the required formal documentation to uphold or justify the demand, yet they were fulfilled. This revelation was revealed by Gujarat’s State Director General of Police, Amitabh Pathak, and came hot on the tail of a similar story originating from New Dehli where the mobile phone records of a senior political leader, Arun Jaitley, were also acquired by a very junior law enforcement officer.
As part of my ongoing research into data privacy laws in Asia Pacific (AP), I spoke with chief information security officers (CISOs), consultants, lawyers, and governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) professionals. This is critical to gauge key decision-makers’ awareness and understanding of the ever-evolving data privacy regulations and policies across 15 different jurisdictions in the region.
Some senior people have admitted to me that their organizations have not traditionally taken data privacy issues terribly seriously within their AP operations. However, in a clear sign that this is beginning to change, GRC practitioners are starting to see increased demand for their compliance-related services from both government and business sectors, particularly since late 2012. Regardless of where you stand on this spectrum, the reality is that the awareness levels of data-related regulations – and the level of compliance required to abide by these regulations – varies widely across the region.
This should not be particularly surprising. The concept of “privacy” or “right to privacy” is relatively new in large parts of the region, and legislative environments are highly fragmented among AP countries. With drastic economic changes and technology advancement under way, many AP governments have imposed sector-based data privacy and security measures, aiming to regulate telecommunication network infrastructure and banking systems in particular.
Below are some of the broader trends we’re seeing across the region:
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